May 24, 2024

The Secret Skin Ingredient For Acne

Skincare acids are a motley crew. But there’s one in particular that needs the same publicist as hyaluronic acid or glycolic acid. Azelaic acid may not come with the same fanfare, but this unassuming ingredient can be a better option if your skin skews sensitive, acne-prone or you battle with pigmentation and mild to moderate rosacea.

Because it’s not as well known, the myriad ways to use azelaic acid can be mystifying. The fact that it’s a mild exfoliator but also moonlights as an anti-inflammatory can be confusing when it comes to slotting it into your regime.

Below, Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme MD, founder of the Adonia Medical Clinic and highly experienced aesthetic doctor, explains what makes azelaic acid such a hard-working ingredient, how to incorporate it alongside your other skincare actives and what skin types will benefit most from using it.

What is azelaic acid?

Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid derived from grains such as rye, wheat and barley. When it comes to skincare products, however, it is typically chemically engineered in a lab to ensure it’s as stable and effective as possible.

What are the benefits of azelaic acid for different skin types?

According to Dr Ejikeme, azelaic acid is a milder exfoliant than other alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), including glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids, which makes it a good choice for dry or sensitive skin.

As well as leaving skin looking impossibly smooth, azelaic acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an ally when acne or rosacea flares up. «It’s one of the few topicals that is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, allowing women to continue treating their acne or rosacea, which can flare during this period,» explains Dr Ejikeme. One ground-breaking study also shows that azelaic acid can reduce follicular hyperkeratinisation (the abnormal shedding of skin cells), which is a key issue for those suffering with regular breakouts.

Another bonus: azelaic acid is known to block the enzyme tyrosinase, meaning it reduces melanin production within the skin. «As a tyrosinase inhibitor, azelaic acid can also be used to treat hyperpigmentation and dark spots,» Dr Ejikeme adds. It is also excellent at fading lingering acne marks.

The expert-approved guide to treating your pigmentation, plus the best dark spot correctors

How to use azelaic acid

Azelaic acid can be prescribed in two concentrations: 15% (Finacea) and 20% (Skinoren). The same study found that topical application of a 15% azelaic acid gel on rosacea-prone skin reduced the serine protease activity responsible for inflammation and treated the redness, raised bumps and pustules.

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